A homeowner in Wellington wanted to replace the fences around her property that were in a poor state. 

She had obtained a very reasonable quote, and visited the neighbours on either side of her house to seek their approval.  She had hoped the neighbours might be willing to contribute towards the cost of the work, since the fences sat right on their mutual boundaries.  One set of neighbours was very happy with the idea, and agreed to contribute, but the other neighbours didn’t want to contribute at all.

Neighbours of adjoining properties usually do have to contribute to the cost of a new fence if the current fence is in a poor state of repair or if there is no fence in place.  There are some exceptions to this, for example, if there is a fencing agreement or covenant registered on your title. 

You should always try to reach an agreement with your neighbour/s before starting to build a fence around your property.  However if a neighbour will not agree, there are requirements under the Fencing Act with which you must comply. 

These requirements include giving your neighbour a Fencing Notice (in writing) which sets out:

  • The boundary to be fenced
  • The type of fence
  • How much it will cost
  • When work will start

The Notice gives your neighbour 21 days to object to the work and/or present a counter proposal. 

If your neighbour doesn’t respond within 21 days of the Notice being given, s/he is deemed to have accepted your proposal, the fencing work can start, and the neighbour is obliged to pay their contribution.  However, if s/he is not willing to contribute you can have the matter decided by the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court, depending on the value of the fencing work.  The Disputes Tribunal is quicker, cheaper and less formal than court.  You can use the Tribunal to settle small claims up to $15,000 or, if everyone agrees, $20,000.

Lindsey Mills
Senior Legal Executive
Wellington